Gambling Harms – A National Strategy


Gambling is an activity where someone puts something of value at risk on an event or game with the potential to win a prize. It can include betting on sporting events, horse races, dice, cards, scratchcards, lottery tickets and more. It is often used as a way to socialize, relieve unpleasant emotions such as boredom or loneliness, and escape from life’s stresses. However, gambling is also associated with a number of risks including increased anxiety and depression, financial problems, alcohol or drug abuse, family conflicts, health issues and legal troubles.

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that prevention interventions can reduce gambling harms. But a greater understanding is needed of the impact and effectiveness of prevention interventions to enable more widespread adoption. Well-designed evaluation is a crucial component of this.

Many people have experienced gambling harm in some form. The national strategy aims to make significant progress towards an effectively commissioned, comprehensive national treatment and support offer for those who need it. This includes making it easier for services to access and provide care, improving existing commissioning and oversight arrangements, and providing support for those who experience other mental health problems alongside gambling harms.

Currently there are only a small number of specialist services available for those experiencing gambling-related harms. These are limited in terms of funding, geographical coverage and reach, compared with the scale of need. The strategy seeks to develop a fully integrated, effective national approach based on a public health model.

This will involve increasing the availability of prevention activities, building the capacity of service providers to deliver them, supporting wider system changes and establishing a strong evidence base for future policy decisions. It will be important to involve local communities and users in designing interventions that are best suited to them, as well as making the most of evidence from other areas of policy and practice such as addictions, homelessness, poverty and social exclusion.

The strategy will require leadership from a variety of organisations. This will include the government, the gambling industry and the wider health and social care sector. It will also involve the voluntary and community sectors, academia and the civil society.

The strategy will also set out an ambition to ensure that a robust evidence base supports the development of new preventative measures, and that these are tested in longitudinal studies to understand their effectiveness. A longitudinal scoping study has been commissioned to investigate the methodological options for conducting such research and make recommendations on how to proceed. The work is being led by NatCen and Dr Heather Wardle.